Smoking ban in hospital grounds attacked by MSPs

Picture: Gary Hutchison
Picture: Gary Hutchison
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The prospect of a blanket smoking ban on all hospital grounds in Scotland has come under fire from Nationalist backbenchers who say it would infringe patients’ the “human rights.”

The measure was also branded “inhumane and vindicative” as it came under the spotlight of Holyrood’s health committee today.

To ban smoking on all hospital grounds is totally inhumane, it’s totally vindicative, its petty - far pettier actually than banning smoking pubs because at least people can still go outside.

Simon Clark

Pro-smoking campaigners say many patients who smoke should be allowed to have a cigarette outside to relieve stress - but the elderly could have walk up to a quarter of a mile to a “busy, main road” under current Scottish Government plans.

Nationalist MSP Richard Lyle said: “I’m a smoker and think people should be able to smoke outside hospital - but maybe at a 100 yard radius from the hospital entrance.”

He suggested shelters could be set up in hospital grounds so people can “exercise their human right to do as they wish and have a cigarette.”

He added: “I want to have a situation where...we respect people who do want to smoke and respect people who don’t want smoking at the entrances.”

Another SNP MSP, Mike McKenzie, suggested that the measure would effectively see smokers forced to go “cold turkey” as it would leave many with a “real, practical problem” in being able to smoke.

Simon Clark of pro-smoking group Forest hit out at the prospect of an outright ban on hospital ground, insisting that patients can find visiting hospital a stressful experience.

“To ban smoking on all hospital grounds is totally inhumane, it’s totally vindicative, its petty - far pettier actually than banning smoking pubs because at least people can still go outside.”

Forest is still against the current smoking ban on indoor public places in Scotland, he added.

“I totally accept that when you go to a hospital having people standing around an entrance (smoking) is not a nice site, it’s not particularly nice for people walking past, although I think that’s often exaggerated.

“But you’ve got to look at it from a patients’ point of view. I’m thinking of patients who might be in for eight or nine weeks , there might be an elderly person who is in for a hip replacement.

“They might be in hospital for eight or nine months and have very limited mobility - they’re being told that they cannot go outside and smoke anywhere in the hospital grounds.

“For a lot of those people having a cigarette, there’s a comfort factor there - it’s something they look forward to. To deny them right to have a cigarette anywhere on hospital grounds is totally and utterly wrong.”

Professor Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy, University of Stirling said the hospital grounds aspect of the bill was “complex.”

But she said: “Having smoking in the very place where people go to get well, even if it’s slightly outside the building, is not compatible with the NHS.

“We’re spending millions of pounds trying to treat smoking-related disease.”

But she said that international experience showed that to make such measures work requires strong policies, enforcement and good communication with the public.

She added: “If we are going to go down this route, I don’t think we’re doing enough in the NHS to offer people alternatives to help them deal with their nicotine withdrawal if they’re forced to not be allowed to smoke including in the grounds.”